We love to give you new ideas on how to get the most out of this town in which we’ve chosen to roost, but we’re also into giving you gentle reminders of the known commodities that have given us a deep and textured love of its brilliant eccentricities. Momofuku restaurants are all over the city, so nothing new here. David Chang has created a rapidly expanding empire by turning classic Asian cooking on its head using American traditions to wow mouths from the East Village to Sydney, so us telling you about him would be like reminding you that the sky is blue. BUT, do let this serve as a reminder (or a very strong suggestion) to go to his Momofuku Ssäm Bar for lunch during the week and very soon. It’s bananas great.Start with the Pork Buns, as you should in any of Mr. Chang’s establishments. We’re not sure anyone on the face of the planet has so effectively mastered the art of cooking pork and its fat so well that they melt perfectly in your mouth as if Lucifer himself were administering his magic elixir to convert you to the traditions of Hades. These two little slabs of swine are so perfectly swaddled inside their soft and ever-so-slightly chewy rice bun with fresh pickles, hoisin sauce and Sriracha (to taste) that they leave you inwardly weeping and begging for more. But refrain from ordering more of these sinful buns, friends, there is more to come and remember, there’s no shame in ordering more pork buns for dessert.For the main course, Mr. Chang has chosen to riff on one of his famous and adored large-format dinners…the Whole Roasted Duck Ssäm, which is meant for three to six diners and must be reserved in advance for dinner. But, we’re not having dinner. At lunch, 20 bucks gets you a single and ample portion of this meal, and it is impressive. Really impressive. First, the obvious. It’s gorgeous. Six juicy thick-sliced pieces of duck breast over sticky rice with a quarter-folded scallion pancake in the big bowl. Six perfectly buffed, dried and arranged leaves of Bibb in the smaller and taller bowl. Our chosen side, the tangy and delicious pickles. And then the sauce cart…hoisin, Sriracha and toasted pearl onions. Round one of assembly, a slice of duck was nestled on a Bibb leaf, dressed with all trimmings, rolled up and to town we go. Ridiculous. Round two was the pancake’s turn. Two slices of duck and all the other good stuff to go with it. What made this part of the meal was the crunchy sea salt on the outside of the chive pancake. It’s on a different level. A slightly larger, slightly thicker moo-shu pork pancake on crack. To reiterate…ridiculous. After that, four more of the aforementioned Bibb ‘n Duck wraps. So good! We were full, but if you need more after that, get another pork bun for dessert or one of the really good looking options they have on the menu that we didn’t get for fear of cleansing the taste of rotisserie duck from our super-content palettes. So, there are your marching orders for your next week-day lunch. Avoid the lines. Enjoy your duck. Off you go!
After a long ass day of rain yesterday, we’re getting a wee bit of much-needed sunshine today. I’ll take it! And it’s going to get up into the 50’s as well. Good stuff. Unfortunately, weather.com has us in the 30’s and 40’s for at least the next ten days. Ick! Shitty weather calls for fantastic food and there is almost nothing better right now than the Patty Melt at Parish Hall in Williamsburg. Everything at Parish Hall is really good to excellent, but the Patty Melt is positively transporting. For starters, the meat in this gooey slab of hell yes! is a combination of grass-fed beef and lamb bacon, oh, glorious lamb bacon.To go with this duo of ground carne are perfectly caramelized onions and delicious melted Landaff cheese which is produced in the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. All of this gets hugged and skillet-grilled between two traditional slices of Rye bread. On the side is Parish Hall’s version of Thousand Island dressing for dipping and your choice salad or fries. I’ve had many a patty melt in my day, but this one kicks the living crap out of all of them. The addition of the lamb bacon to the ground beef gives this incarnation of the classic an amazingly tender and satisfying bite while the silky and mild Landaff cheese allows its smoky hue to come perfectly through on the finish. It’s just so damn mouth-wateringly A++, especially if enjoyed with a glass of Pinot Noir. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for weekend brunch to devour one of these delectable delights. Parish Hall is open at 11am weekdays, 10am on weekends and, and, annnnnnd…they take reservations. The Patty Melt is on Parish Hall’s lunch, brunch and dinner menus. It’s just that good. Go get one. Now, please.
When and where I grew up, we had Spring Break. One of them. Between New Year’s and the end of the school year. Our kids now have Winter Break, Spring Break, and about a million days off in between before they get to summer sometime at the end of June. And because my wife and I were raised with that one break, we always find ourselves the week before winter break with a huge gaping hole in our calendar and no plan in place. But, alas, not this year! We planned months in advance this time around (and we were very self congratulatory about the whole thing. Yes, this year we were to be good parents). Seeing as Lesa and I were relatively fresh off a solo, sans kids jaunt to Mexico we were definitely up for more of the warm, but at a place where the kids could lose their minds and have a blast. Preferably a place with a kid’s club or sitting service so Mommy and Daddy could hit the proverbial town on a night or three. We surfed and chatted and looked a little more before we dimwittedly booked a “fun-filled” family vacation to Atlantis.I want to be clear from the start that there is nothing wrong with the people who actually work at Atlantis. They could not have been more helpful and kind in every respect, but the place is just too bloody huge. And that is, unfortunately, Atlantis’ greatest downfall. We were impressed on the first day (65° and blowing 25 knots) by how easy it was to get a snack and a drink at the poolside food huts. No line. Everyone knows your name and your drink of choice. Amazing. Switch that six to an eight in the temperature and you have some serious beach and pool weather. You also have a shit show backstage with lines a half-hour long to get a fruity rum something and a donkey dick-sized chili dog that’ll set you back almost as much as a couple of appetizers at Per Se. Now, call me crazy, but if you’re gullible enough to pay the kind of money that Atlantis charges at any of its six hotels, shouldn’t you at least be spared the indignity of spending an indecent fraction of your day waiting in some interminable line simply because the weather is cooperating? And God help you if you haven’t booked your Mesa Grill reservation at least a month in advance because mealtimes around this place become a survival-of-the-fittest type exercise complete with running (yes, running) and sheer anxiety. And once you’ve secured your lowly spot at the bar (and your heart rate has returned to normal) don’t for a second be fooled into thinking you’ll be rewarded with a tasty morsel or two. Unfortunately Atlantis’ second greatest downfall is that the food is one step above completely inedible.Now, maybe I’m bitter because the weather didn’t turn out to be the best and Lulu brought with her the remnants of a nasty cold and cough that kept us imprisoned in the suite a time or two. But, if you go ahead and splurge for the ocean view suite, it should at least be tolerable to go on the balcony and read while your little one takes a nap and battles a fever. That ocean view suite we booked? Yeah, you see the ocean, but you mostly see, through the bars of your balcony, the tower of the neighboring hotel with its four thousand balconies. Call me nuts, but staring at all those things with all those people behind them is in no way, shape or form relaxing.But there are upshots to the debacle that was winter break this year. Ten year-olds don’t particularly give a hoot about waiting in lines, freezing their pellets off or eating really crappy food. They do, however, love to run around in a new and different environment tailor made just for them with water slides, a cool aquarium with sharks and a bunch of other kids who are just as bananas. And our 10 year old is no different. The kid had a blast and that certainly softens the blow for us grumpy grownups. And in spite of the #epicfail we consider this vacay to be, we did, at the very least, learn to always plan in advance. We know we cannot control the rain or the wind, but we can control how large or small our future destination will be and ours will be little. Tiny and intimate. And this one is for certain. The three-year-old who, will be four, will not be sick. She will not be sick. God, please, she will not be sick.
Before kids, before meaningful responsibilities and certainly before this forum of ours moved from infancy to toddlerdom, there was a cozy and rustic tavern tucked away in a nook at the crossroads of Little Italy and the Lower East Side. Many long afternoons were spent at the perfectly worn zinc bar with great friends and loves nibbling on Devils on Horseback and Smoked Trout, sipping on French 75’s. Sadly, that tavern was too long forgotten by this writer and unfairly so.Freemans at the end of Freeman Alley just off Rivington is back on the radar and it’s as great as it has ever been. No matter how many times you’ve been, Freemans always feels like a find…like you really have to know the underground byways and secret handshakes of this town. When you enter the blue door at the end of the graffiti adorned lane, you are greeted with what they describe as this “rugged clandestine Colonial American tavern” with walls loaded with peeling paint and vintage taxidermy. The menu follows the same mantra, “simple, rustic and inspired by early American traditions.”For brunch, the Piedmontese Cheeseburger is amazing and the Smoked Trout is second only to the ones I smoke at home…but, I digress. The Roast Pork Sandwich is one that also must be tried with its blanket of thinly sliced pickled zucchini and garlic mayonnaise piled between two slices of grilled peasant bread. Dinner brings other fantastic goodies. To start, go for the House Made Country Paté, the Hot Artichoke Dip or Steamed PEI Mussels. For the main, their Whole Grilled Brook Trout is always a winner as is whatever their Daily Market Fish happens to be. Or for something a little meatier, go for the Grilled Pork Loin or Colorado Lamb Stew.Whichever your culinary poison, wash it all down with one of their classic cocktails or traditional old-world wines. If you’ve never been to Freemans, go now. If it’s been a while, let this serve as your reminder. If you go all the time, call me an idiot and have a nice day.
With things being totally upside down lately, sometimes what you want is a little return to normalcy. Since we were both home from work today, Courtney and I were craving some comfort food and a cozy spot for lunch so we hit up Boca Lupo in Cobble Hill. That place is the terrific antidote for a crazy world. I particularly love the feel of the restaurant’s interior: it’s been opened up with floor to ceiling windows that make it bright and cheerful, and it affords you with a really nice view of the gorgeous Henry Street brownstones.And the food was top notch — never been there for lunch before, but I’ll be back. We had perfectly crusty paninis for the main course (I loved mine: sausage, broccoli rabe, taleggio & ‘shrooms) but I think next time we’ll make an entire meal just from their inventive and delicious bruschetta menu. We shared three that were amazing, and this was our ranking in order of their awesomeness: 1) Creamy mushroom, leek & truffle cheese, 2) Butternut squash & gorgonzola, 3) Goat cheese, eggplant, jalapeño spice raisins.It was really good to have a few laughs and enjoy some solid chow. Here’s hoping all of you out there get some good food and drink this weekend, and let’s all hope next week is little more back to normal.
I have no idea what made us order sticky buns at Roberta’s. I don’t particularly like them. They’re usually cheaply and overly sugared on the outside and dry on the inside. Not at Roberta’s! The sticky bun here is one of the best things you will ever put in your mouth.I’m not sure, but I think they’re cooked in Roberta’s wood fired oven like all of their other bread, but this bun has the most amazing swirl of cinnamon coated into the perfectly soft and chewy brioche roll coated with a tear-inducing caramel and maple goo sprinkled with a few key granules of sea salt. Whether you go for brunch, lunch or dinner, get one or four. They’ll rock your world.
I moved to Alphabet City about a decade ago and there was one of the crappiest Chinese take-out joints this city has ever seen right across the street from me on Avenue C. Finally, that place closed and construction began. A few months later, a crappy Italian restaurant opened. Like, I’ll-pay-for-the-damn-food-just-get-me-out-of-here crappy. I always felt terrible for the owners who would assemble all of their friends at the front of the restaurant just behind the newly installed glassed-panelled garage door to try to attract unsuspecting patrons into the otherwise empty room. PEOPLE! You cannot open a crappy Italian restaurant in the East Village and expect success. WAY too much great competition. But then something wonderful happened. The Italian place closed and a couple of supremely talented restauranteurs took over the lease and began to transform the space into what is now Edi & the Wolf.
Edi and his good buddy Wolf have created one of the best rooms in the city in which to enjoy a meal with an aim to “recreate tradition with a feast of rustic Austrian cuisine and a carefully curated European wine list” and they manage to do just that. Today, the aforementioned garage door feels as if it has been there for a hundred years with a happy mess of herbs and vines invite you to venture through a barn wood shack that leads into this amazingly warm and creative display of cozy genius. Your attention is drawn to many curiosities scattered throughout and the much written about thick coiled rope above the bar. I have no idea why it is there, but it doesn’t rally matter because it looks amazing hanging there from the wide-planked ceiling with candle wax dripping down its side. It’s a warm addition to just the sort of room that makes you want to curl up on one of their banquets and enjoy an amazing meal with a big bottle of red wine.
And speaking of food, the friendly folks at Edi & the Wolf nail it every time. Small plates like the Hamachi, Pork Belly, and Liptaurer & Herb Gervais are served perfectly arranged on black slabs of slate. If you’re into sharing or being so full that you’ll have to be rolled out of the place, the Spätzle is a must. It is one of the finest examples of culinary comfort love I have experienced in my few short years on this earth. And if that’s not enough, the main courses are incredible. I usually get the Pork Weiner Schnitzel which is perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with refreshingly prepared potato salad with cucumber and lingonberry jam. On my last trip, however, I stepped outside the box and went for the Shell Steak. Oh, my! Divinity! Perfect char on the outside and uniformly pink in the middle, every bite was a short trip to heaven. Served up with parsley root, mustard greens, wild mushrooms and nugget potatoes, I was in no mood for my meal to end even when my attention was required by the three-year-old whose IPad’s juice had just run dry. So if you haven’t already, go to Edi & the Wolf on Avenue C between 6th and 7th Streets. It’ll be well worth the trip.
They tout themselves as having the best friend chicken in Brooklyn and I’m inclined to agree, but goddamn if Jimmy’s Diner in Williamsburg doesn’t have some of the best comfort food anywhere.
The burger I ordered came out thick and juicy on a soft bun with good old American cheese. Those are buttermilk onion rings in the background that are delivered with Jimmy’s delicious homemade ranch. I love onion rings and eat a lot of them and these perfectly crispy monsters are absolutely NOT to be missed. Also try their ridiculously sinful homemade tater tots, any one of their hang-over helping breakfast bowls or anything fried or pork.
And to wash it all down, they make nice tall cocktails properly poured. If you’re not in a drinking mood or you’re 10, try one of their milkshakes. This one was the black and white and the whole family spent the better part of two and a half minutes devouring it. Jimmy’s is open everyday from 9:30 in the morning until 10 a night and they only take cash. Give it a shot. Jimmy’s rocks!
Behind and unassuming curtain and a set of worn velvet ropes in the lobby of Le chic Parker Meridien hotel is an establishment that serves up of the best feet-on-the-ground no b*** s*** burgers in the city.
There is almost always a line to get into the crazily downscale Burger Joint where you’ll get your paws on one of their juicy gems. The place is packed with just about every language on the face of the planet and the walls are covered in old movie posters, hand scribbled notes and the ubiquitous signed celebrity headshots. The pricing gets me every time. $6.89 for a burger. $7.35 for a cheeseburger. $5.51 if you want anything on them. $1.38 for fries or a whole pickle. $5.05 for a cup of beer or red wine. And the priceless note at the end of the menu, “If you don’t see it, we don’t have it!” This one is a classic and worth the wait as long as the line hasn’t made it through the lobby and onto the street.
The new (and old) restaurants on Bond and Great Jones Streets have been sucking me in to sample their tasty offerings lately. This morning, it was The Smile at 26 Bond Street.
Stepping down off the sidewalk into the basement of this old Noho loft building, you are taken by the herb-adorned entrance and old word charm of this rustic restaurant/coffee shop/general store. I grabbed one of the window seats in the front and decided to keep it simple…scrambled eggs with Gruyère, sourdough toast and a salad. Great way to start the day.
For lunch, The Smile has a great choice of fantastically prepared salads and sandwiches and the dinner menu, while short, focuses on amazing fresh selections such as whole roasted brook trout and seared flank steak over sautéed sweet corn. The Smile perfect for a low-key lunch meeting or glass of wine and an appetizer after work. Cool place.